If you're a Monty Python fan, you might be familiar with the film, Life of Brian, a religious parody that garnered significant controversy and criticism at the time of its release. I found it to be a funny movie, but actually the thing that stuck with me the most was the catchy song, Always Look at the Bright Side of Life, written by Eric Idle and arranged by John Altman. It's a song about being optimistic in the face of life's troubles.
Here's a sample of the lyrics in the song:
"Some things in life are bad They can really make you mad Other things just make you swear and curse When you're chewing on life's gristle Don't grumble, give a whistle And this'll help things turn out for the best And...
Always look on the bright side of life Always look on the light side of life."
As I said, it's a catchy song. And it has a great message- be an optimist, look at the bright side of things. Be happy! Great in theory, but in practice? Is it possible to create happiness in one's life?
In my interview with Mitzi Miller (https://www.gaudylanguage.com/post/getting-to-know-mitzi-miller) she shared that she has made happiness a personal choice. Of course, people are divided on whether or not most people can choose to be happy. Some of our capacity for happiness is genetic (around 50 percent of our capacity for happiness is tied to genetics, according to Psychologist and Author of The How to Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky.) So if you're in the camp that believes happiness can be chosen, this would mean 50 percent of our ability to be happy is under our control.
Some Tips for Happiness:
According to life coach, Debra Smouse, one of the secrets to happiness (among many others) is to take time for gratitude. Smouse isn't the only one who recommends gratitude- Harvard Health wrote an article Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier, noting that "in positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships." One can express gratitude in many ways- writing a gratitude list, writing thank you notes, and even saying a simple 'thank you.'
Stop the Comparisons:
Susan D. Crum, CEO of Susan D. Crum LLC, advises everyone to stop comparing themselves to others. She says, "Happiness is found when we stop comparing ourselves to other people. Being thankful makes us realize our many blessings... If we don’t learn to appreciate and love what we have, it will never be enough, and we will never be happy."
It's so easy to compare ourselves to others, since we live in a society where all we have to do is click a few times and we can see what everyone on the planet is doing and witness all of their accomplishments. And sometimes we might feel that our own accomplishments pale in comparison. But constant competition can lead to a deep unhappiness.
Be Careful with Social Media:
The advice about avoiding comparisons leads to another tip: be careful with social media. Social media is a great tool for connection, whether that connection is for individuals or businesses. It's also a great way to learn more about the world. The downside of social media, however, is that being constantly connected to the world can wreak havoc on our well-being. Bad news is popular, and controversy leads to more clicks and comments, which means the algorithm will push the posts out to more people. And sometimes we might find ourselves obsessively reading through all of the bad news of the day. There's even a term for this sort of behavior: "doom-scrolling."
Avoiding "doom-scrolling" and monitoring the amount of time we spend on social media can be a positive change for our mental health.
When we are down in the dumps, the last thing we might be thinking about is getting out and volunteering, but studies show that doing something kind for others can be a way to boost our own happiness. Medical News Today reports "Happiness has been linked to an activation of the ventral striatum, which has been shown to play a role in the brain’s reward system, giving us that feeling of satisfaction when we perform a pleasant activity."
So volunteering every now and then not only helps others, but is a way to help ourselves!
During the height of the pandemic, socializing was often relegated to a group Zoom call. More social options are available now and however we choose to interact with others, the fact remains: socializing is important. (Yes, even for us introverts!)
The Psychology Today article by Dr. Melanie Greenberg (Does Being More Social Make Us Happier?) notes "Previous research has shown that people feel happier when interacting with others and that happy people interact more with others. Similar results were found in the current study: People who had more social interactions were happier on average than those who interacted less."
Having meaningful interactions with other people can really make a difference in our level of happiness.
These are just five tips to help in our pursuit of happiness. Of course, there are good days and bad and there are many, many mitigating factors that affect our ability to be happy. But it's nice to know that there are a few actions that we can take to increase our ability to be happy.